In my speeches on stress I say, “Your sense of humor is your number one stress management tool,” and it’s true. Just as a tree needs to bend and sway when a fierce storm blows, we need to flex and loosen up when things get turbulent.

At first it seems counterintuitive to lighten up when we want to tighten up. But relaxing, smiling, and even laughing in the face of pressure releases pent-up emotions; it lets you take a breath and relieve the burden. And who’s the best person to laugh at? Yourself, of course. You’ll never run out of material!

Many people know about my practice of choosing an annual theme. I even make a poster for my wall and feature the themes at My annual themes guide and influence me, providing opportunities for growth and change. My 2010 them is Year of Finesse with the tag line Artful Living.

Well, in the parlance of be careful what you ask for, either 2010 is a debacle or I won the “opportunity” lotto. This year has sucked. I’ve temporarily changed my office poster to read “Year of Fine Mess” and “Awful Living” instead of the original. Not the most affirming message, but it makes me laugh.

You’ve had tough times, too, and sometimes it’s our warped sense of humor that gets us through. When you’re stuck in a pressure cooker, open up the steam vent; stand back and occasionally smile or laugh at yourself. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.

Remember that you are creative, competent, and most of all, capable of amazing resilience. Let your sense of humor keep you nimble when circumstances make you humble. In Bless Your Stress I state that “a bad day alive beats the heck out of a good day dead,” and this line tickles me. From affirmations to laffirmations, even when I hurt I’m grateful I can still fog a mirror!

William James said that common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds; that a sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. In the midst of heartache, I’ve been forcing myself to dance.

Simple Action: There will be times when you hurt so much it feels as if you’ll break in two, but your sense of humor will guide you to the other side of the storm. In the maelstrom, sway and bend, ease up, smile, laugh, and dance your way through the darkness. It’s called the breakthrough.

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